White House asks industry to develop secure federal network

President Bush's special adviser on cybersecurity on Wednesday told hundreds of information technology specialists that he wants the private sector's recommendations on how to build a secure nationwide intranet for government agencies and their estimates on its cost.

Richard Clarke also said the private sector would build the intranet, to be called Govnet, and then lease it back to the government in exchange for a service fee.

"We want to build as secure an intranet as possible--one that taxpayers can rely on to be 100 percent safe ... a network that is separate from the routers connected to the Internet," Clarke told IT officials gathered at the Commerce Department.

He said there has been a 66 percent increase in virus attacks on computer networks in the past year. He added that computer viruses are becoming smarter and mutating, raising the possibility of a "devastating cyber attack" on government computer systems.

"Our enemies are smart, and they know how to use our technology against us," he said.

Two weeks ago, at the direction of Clarke, the General Services Administration posted a request for information seeking private-sector ideas on the possibility of building a special network for key government functions. Clarke said he had been working on the idea for about a year and first briefed Bush about a private government network in May. He said Bush expressed interest but wanted to know the cost.

"We have had a variety of tech people ask us, 'What can we do to help?'" he said. "It is in that spirit that we ask you to build an intranet ... and to tell us how much it will cost."

Clarke underscored that Govnet would not replace government agencies' use of the Internet to provide public information but rather would be used for critical agency information only. Each agency would pay a service fee to connect to Govnet, and each agency would decide what it considers critical and top-secret information.

No agency could connect to the Govnet unless it had demonstrated a level of computer security to ensure that no intruders could access Govnet. Clarke noted that no government agency has that level of computer security now.

Private-sector recommendations on Govnet are due Nov. 21, and GSA expects to post an analysis of the recommendations and an idea for moving forward by the end of January. If the administration agrees to ask high-tech companies to build Govnet, officials estimate that it would take about a year-and-a-half to launch the network.

Several news reports over the past week have quoted security experts as criticizing the Govnet idea, charging that no computer network can be completely insulated from attack.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.